It’s a public holiday this coming Monday, May 8, in the United Kingdom, set aside to mark the coronation of King Charles III in London on Saturday.
Public holidays mean more traffic on the UK’s already chaotic motorways and ‘A’ roads as drivers load up caravans, camper vans and cars and head to the seaside or the mountains, beauty spots or areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Generally speaking and as a sensible rule of thumb, it’s better not to travel on the roads anytime there is a bank holiday weekend.
What a long weekend means
There was one last Monday too, to mark May Day, and there is another set too for the last Monday at the end of the month. So, yes, it’s not a good time to be one the roads. To make matters worse, some of the railway lines have engineering works scheduled as well, which means even more traffic on those roads.
The smart have booked holidays for this week, meaning that they get two extra days off, plus four regular weekend days for just claiming four annual leave days.
Bank holidays also mean that bin collections at county councils up and down the UK are disrupted. If your bins are usually picked up on Mondays, they now switch to another day of the week — or are simply not picked up at all, which is most annoying for those with smelling bins and too many litter bags.
A recent poll carried out by the BBC on attitudes towards the hereditary institution found that just 58 per cent of adults in the UK supported the idea of a monarchy.
This week too, voters in many parts of England are voting in local elections to elect new town, city and county councils — where bin collection, the state of roads and poor policing, the state of schools, community services, planning, local buses and social care are all decided.
The state of all of the above are abysmal, so it’s small wonder the Conservative party of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expecting a trouncing. Some 6,000 council seats are up for grabs, and the Conservatives will consider it to be a good result if they only lose some 600 of the seats they hold at the lowest form of elected government.
With all of this going on, there seems to little sense of historical significance when it comes to the actual business on Saturday of formally crowning King Charles at Westminster Abbey.
Rewind to Queen Elizabeth’s coronation
Most of us will have seen film footage of the coronation of the young Queen Elizabeth II almost 70 years ago, on 2 June 1953. It was the first time the ancient ceremony was generally televised, and the event itself spurred sales of televisions as Britons tried to bring the historical event into their homes.
Large street parties were held in cities and towns. In the East End of London, an area that had been flattened by German bombers during the Blitz of the Second World War, the occasion was seen as a turning point, a time of new beginning.
Britain and much of the rest of the world was still emerging from the conflict that ended just eight years before. Post-war rationing of basic goods was still mostly in place, and the crowning of the young monarch was a cause for optimism.
Fast forward by almost 70 years and there is much less a sense of anticipation. Charles has been a familiar face for all of his 74 years, seemingly waiting for a long time to take on the role that would be inevitably his on the passing of his mother.
Why the British public seem jaded
Those street parties? Well, in Ceredigion, a county on Wales, not a single street party is planned. In neighbouring Gwynedd, just one public street party is scheduled. And in Pembrokeshire, to the south-west of Wales and a place where many retired English couples now call home, there are 13.
By no means is the rate of formal applications to councils a barometer of regal support, but it is anecdotally indicative that there is less support now for the institution of monarchy than before. Besides, much of the admiration towards the House of Windsor was firmly focused on a respect and love for Queen Elizabeth. With her passing last September, must of that died with her too. Besides, the antics of Prince Harry and his American wife Meghan Markle, have turned a lot of people off. For too long and too often have press and broadcast outlets carried tittle-tattle stories of “he said, she said” gossip.
Quite frankly, the British public seem jaded.
A recent poll carried out by the BBC on attitudes towards the hereditary institution found that just 58 per cent of adults in the UK supported the idea of a monarchy. While it’s still a majority, it’s by no means an overwhelming number that would eradicate any need for further debate.
When it comes to young peoples’ attitudes towards the House of Windsor, two-thirds responded that they though it was time for an elected head of state. That’s hardly an emphatic vote of confidence and, as the demographic suggests, there will be much work needed to be done to secure the future of the institution that makes British history, heritage and culture unique.
No sooner had the poll been released than Princess Anne, the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth, took to her public relations campaign with a statement that she thought it would be wrong for the House of Windsor to slim down — hardly an appropriate note. Maybe she should have been reminded of one of the key principles of politics: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Then again, the monarchy is considered to be above mere politics.
Yes, there will the diehards who will watch every moment of the historic event. Many more will watch the televised concert even if only for the star-studded line-up of performers.